BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
All I can say is that I'm exhausted, and all I was doing was watching. Somehow, some way, the 7th-ranked Auburn Tigers found a way to beat a talented Jacksonville State team in OT, 27-20.
The Gamecocks came into the game as 41-point dogs and nearly pulled an "Appalachian State". You remember back in 2007 when App State from the FCS beat then 5th-ranked Michigan as 33 point underdogs?
On Saturday, the Gamecocks nearly gave the FCS only its second win over a top ten FBS team in 101 games. But it was the Tigers who survived "The Scare At Jordan-Hare", and I'm here to tell you that after watching that football game I needed a cigarette, and I don't smoke.
So then- who gets my Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down? These are merely my opinions, but I think you will agree with most!
Thumbs Up: Auburn Tailback Peyton Barber
Man, is this young man a wrecking ball. A back-up just a week ago, the big guy followed up last week's superb performance with more brilliance on Saturday. 23 rushes for 125 yards and 1 TD, with most of those physical bull rushes when the Tigers needed them most. It seemed to me that the Gamecocks were giving the Auburn Tigers a taste of their own medicine with the power read, but late in the game, Barber gave it back to JSU and saved the day for the Auburn nation.
Thumbs Up: Auburn Safety Johnathan Ford
While the Auburn secondary was consistently torched (JSU out up 277 passing yards), Johnathan Ford was a beast. He had 12 tackles, a key pick, and a few big-time returns that helped put the Tigers in great field position. Job well done.
Thumbs Up: Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy
The pride of Birmingham was sensational Saturday, turning in a team-high 13 tackles, many of them at key moments of the game (witness the 3rd down play from JSU in overtime). McKinzy bailed out a defense that was often leaky. Great going young man, make it a large shake at Chick-Fil-A!
Thumbs Down: Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson:
This call is a bit more difficult, as you can argue that Johnson did lead the team to a win and tossed a pair of TD's including the game-winner. The junior went 21-32 for 236 passing yards, 2 TD's and 2 INT's. But think about it: Johnson has thrown 5 picks in two games- not good. His QB rating did top 135 on Saturday. Combined with last weekend's QBR of 41, Johnson's WBR now stands at 94 through two games. Coaches Malzahn and Lashlee want that rating much higher, and they likely look forward to working with Johnson on his reads.
Thumbs Up: JSU Quarterback Eli Jenkins
This kid was a joy to watch on Saturday as he almost led his team to the upset. He went 26-43 for 277 yards and a TD. Elusive and tough with a great touch, he gave the Tiger DB's fits.
Thumbs Up: JSU Coach John Grass
Only a few years ago he was coaching high school football. On Saturday, Grass gave the Tigers some of their own medicine in the read option behind Jenkins and tailback Troymaine Pope. The Gamecocks wound with more total yards than Auburn (438-401), more passing yards (277-236), more total plays (89-70) and most time of possession (35:25 to 24:35). Grass has always sported superb offenses, and on Saturday he simply outcoached Gus Malzahn.
Thumbs Up: The Auburn Video Board
Call it "JungleTron", "TigerTron", etc, this baby ruled the day. A 10,000 square foot Goliath that needs 40 people to run. The bad part about the new board? Maybe the Tigers were too busy looking at themselves on the video screen to hunker down on the field. Still, Jay Jacobs has come up a winner in leading the charge to have that beast built.
The moral of today's story? There really is good news for Auburn fans. Their team is 2-0 and heading for a big one at Death Valley next weekend. The good news for JSU? I think that will come at the end of the season when the Gamecocks win the FCS national championship. Now about that cigarette…